Gastric(stomach) cancer is a malignant tumor arising from the lining of the stomach. Fortunately, there has been a significant decrease in the number of people diagnosed with gastric cancer in the past 60 years. Stomach cancers are classified according to the type of tissue from which they orignate. The most common type of stomach cancer is adenocarcinoma, which starts in the glandular tissue of the stomach and accounts for 90-95% of all stomach cancers. Rarer forms of gastric cancers include lymphomas (involving the lymphatic system) and sarcomas (arising from muscles, fat or blood vessels). If found and treated at an early stage, stomach cancer can often be cured. Unfortunately the outlook is considerably poorer if the cancer is already at an advanced stage when discovered.
While the exact cause of gastic cancer is unknown, a number of conditions can increase the risk of the disease. These include Heliobacter pylori infection of the stomach (see H. pylori), which can cause chronic inflammation and ulcers; older age; male gender; a diet high in salted, smoked or preserved foods; chronic gastritis; pernicious anemia; some gastric polyps; a family history of gastric cancer; smoking ;and alcohol. Symptoms of early gastric cancer may be mild, and include indigestion, bloating, nausea, loss of appetite and heartburn. In more advanced cases patients can develop pain in the upper abdomen, blood in the stool, vomiting (with or without blood), weight loss, weakness and fatigue. Obviously, many of these symptoms overlap with benign, non-cancerous conditions, such as ulcers.
Gastric cancer can sometimes be diagnosed during na physical examination, but the more traditional methods of diagnosis include barium X-ray studies, endoscopic exam and biopsies (tissue samples), and CT scans. The treatment of gastric cancer often involves surgery, called gastrectomy, to remove all or part of the stomach, as well as some tissue surrounding the stomach. Chemotherapy and radiation treatment may also come into play, depending on the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis.